Things I Wish I’d Known

By: Atiya Irvin-Mitchell

You make that fateful last trip down the hallowed halls of High School, walk across the stage, get your diploma, and prepare yourself for the next part of your life.  Like with most things, everyone you know is full of advice for you and stories of their own. Your parents will tell you how much fun college was for them. Your teachers most likely fed up with the case of senioritious most of the class has contracted will tell you that in college your professors will not care.  Television shows and movies tell you about keggers, hook ups, and pranks. Mandatory movies in health class will warn you about the dangers of bing drinking and drug use. But what do people wish they’d known as freshman? And what should you know? Seven different college students have some advice for you.

  1. First and foremost: Ignore the movies. Really, ignore the movies. College is not one big party. There will be parties, and clubs, and karaoke nights, but college is also hard. Emotionally and academically hard. “I coasted a lot in high school,” says college junior Aline Hoffman, “Things that you could get away with in high school, you won’t be able to in college. Less frequent classes can mean more outside work, and procrastination can cost you.” She adds, “I used to do things like write papers the day before they were due, and I could get an A or B, but in college, your professors notice how much or how little time you’ve put into something.”

    The college experience is not the same for everyone. So embrace the unexpected and the fact that it might not be anything like you imagined it, and that’s okay. “I definitely had a picture in my head that resembled every movie about college,” Now senior Jordon Williams says, “Massive wild parties, girl meets her dream guy, that kind of thing. I sort of understood that it wouldn’t be exactly like that but in reality it was nothing like the movies, which turned out to be a good thing. I was looking for that kind of experience in the beginning, but I learned it’s not real or worth it.”

  2. Another subject that tends to shock people is finances, from loans to budgeting. Unfortunately, most high schools do not offer courses in how to manage money and the possibility of debt. As Jeremy Martin says, “As someone who couldn’t get financial assistance from my parents, I wish I would have known how expensive taking loans out would be. You don’t realize the actual cost until you start paying them back. I wish every new college student had to take some kind of college loan financial literacy class.”
  3. It’s a hard fact: even though it gets better in a lot of ways after you leave high school, not everyone gets better. “The biggest thing is that the campuses may be more ‘conservative’ than one may think. I don't know what to say other than ‘conservative’, but I guess it's my own editorial description. Basically, what I wish I knew (and what also surprised me) was that in Pittsburgh, many people from Central PA come to ‘the big city.’ There's a good chance that they know nothing about queer issues/could be hateful or offensive towards queer people. I came out to my roommate and my whole first year was a nightmare,” says junior, Gabriel N. “He outed me to my whole floor, and others wouldn't talk to me. I guess what I wish I knew was how to keep myself safe as a queer person on campus and where my resources were. If I was more knowledgeable of my resources, I might have had an easier and safer year.”
  4. It is fine to not know exactly what you wanna do with your life at eighteen, but if you do, get all the information that you can so you can try to learn accordingly. “I wish I'd known to really research my field so that I could have better tailored my college experience to my needs beyond what the curriculum offered,” agrees Kitoko Chargois. 
  5. And finally remember being “on your own” now, does not mean you have to do everything alone. It’s okay to ask for help. "People will tell you that in college, no one is going to help you. You're on your own. They're wrong. Between study groups, office hours, tutoring, and countless other resources, many, many people can help you to succeed. But the help won't find you. You have to go out and find it,” Daniel Brusilovsky says, going onto add, "There's nothing wrong with reaching out and asking for help. It doesn't make you weak or needy. People need other people. We are social, dependent creatures. We thrive when we have others to depend on."
  6. Finally, a piece of advice from yours truly: as Charlie from the Perks of Being a Wallflower wisely said, “Enjoy it, because it’s happening.” Don’t obsess over doing college perfectly, or about how things should be going. Sleep at night. Have cupcakes for dinner every once in a while, because you can. Meet people who make you laugh until it hurts. Don’t assume it has to be the best time of your entire life, because life does not end at 21 or 22. Don’t have ice cream for every meal, even though it’s super tempting. So really, just enjoy it for no other reason than that it’s happening.